The Carolina Hurricanes closed out their season series with the Florida Panthers last night, and they had a chance to secure 14 out of a possible 16 points head-to-head against their division rival and a fellow Stanley Cup hopeful.
Carolina had to do it with five injuries, though, including the likes of Petr Mrazek, Jordan Martinook, Brady Skjei and Jesper Fast, who suffered injuries over the first three games of the Florida swing.
The result wasn’t necessarily what the Hurricanes wanted, but all things considered, an overtime loss wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
Let’s talk about last night.
Early on for Carolina, it was the Dougie Hamilton show.
In the opening minutes of the game, and with Steven Lorentz flanking Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov on the first line, the Hurricanes established good offensive zone possession and eventually worked a puck back to Hamilton.
Doogie goal!— Canes Country (@CanesCountry) April 24, 2021
Hamilton's 7th of the year gives the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead in Florida. pic.twitter.com/LsVlwa4mWn
His point shot deflected off a stick early in its trajectory, and it was enough to fool Chris Driedger and gives the Canes an early 1-0 lead.
Penalties and special teams were a factor again on Saturday, and it directly led to Dougie’s second goal of the evening.
He did it to 'em again— Canes Country (@CanesCountry) April 25, 2021
Dougie Hamilton's second goal of the night gives the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead in Florida! pic.twitter.com/LDSR8pWhgt
Hamilton had all the room and time in the world to let a mammoth shot go from the top of the right circle, and he didn’t miss his shot.
Those goals bumped him up to eight on the season.
While Carolina’s power play lifted the team up early in the night, it let it down later on.
A Blown Lead
Brett Pesce’s goal gave the Hurricanes a 3-1 lead just 3:04 into the third period. It felt like a huge goal that could go a long way in putting the game away.
It was not.
100 seconds later, Florida came right back and cut the lead back down to one goal. 92 seconds after that, the Panthers tied the game on a disastrous power play meltdown that resulted in a Panther shorthanded goal off the stick of Alexander Wennberg through a bevy of humanity in front of Alex Nedeljvkoic.
Carolina survived regulation. They did not play it out and have a win-worthy performance. That was evident in how the game looked and was backed up by the numbers.
The Panthers outpaced the Hurricanes 3.49 to 1.54 in expected goals in all situations, one of Carolina’s worst games this season from that standpoint. The Canes had five power plays to the Cats’ four.
While the Hurricanes were in a very vulnerable position due to injuries, there wasn’t much going on with their play for most of the game. They were lucky to force overtime and get a point.
14 out of 16
It’s almost impossible to be upset with the Hurricanes going through Florida against the teams they’re neck-and-neck with in the Central Division and go 2-0-2. That’s six out of a possible eight points.
On that subject, how about 14 of 16. That’s how many points the Canes got in their head-to-head matchups with the Panthers during the regular season.
Quite simply, Carolina had their number. This isn’t a fresh hot take from me; Florida’s captain has said it multiple times. The Hurricanes outscored the Panthers 29-19 in their eight matchups and never lost a game in regulation.
That should leave everyone feeling pretty good as the postseason nears, and the possibility of these two teams going head-to-head looms.
By the time that happens, the Hurricanes should have Teuvo Teravainen, Jordan Martinook, Brady Skjei, Jesper Fast, and Petr Mrazek in their lineup. That’s something they didn’t have the luxury of last night.
You would’ve loved two points and a chance to add even more separation between them and the Panthers, but having a one-point lead on them with two games in hand isn’t bad either.
We are in the stretch run of the regular season, folks. Eight games separate the Hurricanes from the playoffs, and they have some hungry, playoff bubble teams to deal with in the meantime. They can’t let up at this point if they want to win the division.